Letter: Why has Albert Lea been stagnant?

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

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Today when I went to my mailbox I found a handwritten letter from a person who had lived in Albert Lea some years ago. She and her husband lived in Illinois for his work but decided to move back home after he retired. She was aghast at what had happened to the once-growing city they had once called home! They built a home in the area but realized Albert Lea was not the town they had left. She included a list of businesses that were no longer operating here. The count came to over 70 that were here in the ’60s and ’70s. This did not include the closing of the hospital that Mayo closed, taking many jobs out of the city. This did not include businesses that had wanted to come here over those years — an auto parts distribution center, a large tomato-raising company that went to Iowa and a pork processing company. Diamond Jo would have built in the old Wilson plant area but could not get support because the city fathers did not want a casino here. Iowa is reaping the benefits from them just a few miles down the highway.

Albert Lea has become a stagnant city with no growth in jobs and population due to that fact. As kids graduate, they cannot wait to leave town, as a young lady who I spoke to said to me this spring. The population has not gotten over 18,000 in the last decade, while Austin, Faribault and Owatonna have grown due to people with foresight running their cities. In speaking to an employee of the Owatonna City Council, a group of business people meet regularly to see how to expand the opportunities in Owatonna.

During this period of stagnation, we have had the same mayor in office, an employee of the Mayo system, who is paid by them and has little concern for the city we live in. With no industry as a tax base, the burden of running falls on the home owners. Have your taxes risen?

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I came here not as a politician — just a concerned homeowner. By the way, the letter said if she had walked down Broadway she would not have built in the area.

Jim Jirele

Albert Lea